How Travelling Solo Has Made Me A Better Person

Not book related as such but great article; this only makes me more excited for my solo trip to Thailand in January!
Hopefully the first of many too (shame I have a job that I don’t really want to give up so really limited on holiday!)

read.travel.write

This article appeared on Thought Catalog on February 9th 2014.


I was eighteen the first time I set out on my own. I did it again when I was twenty. And a third time when I was twenty-one. I am a self-confessed airport crier, last-minute packer, document misplacer and chronic over-thinker who finds leaving anyone and anywhere a huge deal. Yet I have never once regretted going. I have missed things (people, birthdays, my graduation, homecooked meals, etc) but I have never once thought “I should never have gotten on that plane.”

Travelling solo is the best thing I have ever done. It is when I feel that I am more than just alive; I am living. It makes me feel present and proactive and strong. It provides a unique combination of control and freedom that I have yet to find anywhere else. Every time I arrive in a new place I…

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This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

This One Is Mine [review]

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

[Synopsis]

Violet Parry is living the quintessential life of luxury in the Hollywood Hills with David, her rock-and-roll manager husband, and her darling toddler, Dot. She has the perfect life–except that she’s deeply unhappy. David expects the world of Violet but gives little of himself in return.

When she meets Teddy, a roguish small-time bass player, Violet comes alive, and soon she’s risking everything for the chance to find herself again. Also in the picture are David’s hilariously high-strung sister, Sally, on the prowl for a successful husband, and Jeremy, the ESPN sportscaster savant who falls into her trap. For all their recklessness, Violet and Sally will discover that David and Jeremy have a few surprises of their own.

THIS ONE IS MINE is a compassionate and wickedly funny satire about our need for more–and the often disastrous choices we make in the name of happiness.

This One Is Mine

[My Review]

This One Is Mine by Maria Semple is a strange but quite entertaining story of two sisters-in-law, Sally and Violet, and their contrasting by equally disastrous lives.

To be honest pretty much all the characters in this novel are very unlikeable. The majority are pretty racist, snobby and overall not at all nice people. I guess this was intentional and it’s quite impressive that Maria Semple actually manages to make me care about them even a tiny bit, considering how horrible they mostly are to each other. I still didn’t feel that the characters were hugely convincing at times, or was overly invested in their lives, but was interested enough to continue reading.

The writing was witty and, I felt, really good, but at times the plot dragged on a bit and I found my attention wandering a little. I think some parts could have been cut down, but then other parts of the novel I found so entertaining and humorous!

Overall I’d say this novel is worth a read and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel that it was amazing.

[Rating: 3/5]

I received a copy of this novel in a Goodreads giveaway in return for an honest review.

After You by Jojo Moyes

After You [review]

After You by Jojo Moyes[Synopsis]

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.

After You (Me Before You, #2)

[My Review]

After You by JoJo Moyes is the sequel to the hugely popular and brilliant Me Before You, one of my favourite books. The story continues after Will’s death and deals with Louisa’s way of dealing with his suicide, trying to piece her life back together again.

I would definitely say read Me Before You before reading this; although you will probably still get the gist of what’s going on, there are a LOT of references back to the previous novel so it’s definitely worth reading it. Plus, you get to know the characters so much and really care about them in Me Before You, which is what made me fall in love with the book in the first place. The characters in this novel might not strike a chord with me as much as the previous novel, but they were still, in my opinion, well developed and interesting. I did really miss Will’s character though, as he was such a great one! I have to admit that I really disliked one young character (you’ll probably know who when you read it) because she got on my nerves and her personality was really irritating. Then again, she definitely seemed to be intended as a jarring character for Louisa. I just didn’t warm to her at all… though maybe a tiny bit at the end!

Parts of this novel were really sad and emotional, and other parts genuinely made me laugh. I love JoJo Moyes’ writing so much! This novel was a worthy sequel, especially for those wanting to learn more about Lou’s life after Will.

JoJo Moyes manages to include so much about death and grief and loneliness, whilst simulatenously stopping it from becoming too depressing or miserable. There’s still a spark to the story which reminds you that you’re reading one of her novels, which I’m so glad about.

I would definitely recommend this novel to fans of JoJo Moyes or anyone looking for a new brilliant ‘chick-lit’ author with added depth- but make sure you read Me Before You first! (Have I said that enough times yet? Sorry!)’

Rating: 4/5

Have you read Me Before You or any other books by JoJo Moyes? Have you read After You- if so, what did you think?

Nowhere Girl by Ruth Dugdall

[Currently Reading] and [Recent Additions]

Hello everyone! The post’s title kind of explains the basic premise; it’s about what I’m currently reading, what I’ve recently received or purchased, and finally what I’ve recently added to my ‘To Read’ list on Goodreads (I had to pick the most recent of these as there are always loads of books I’ve added on Goodreads!)


[Currently Reading]

After You by Jojo MoyesStranger Child by Rachel AbbottAfter You – JoJo Moyes

Only just started reading this; I LOVED ‘Me Before You’ so am excited to read this too!

Stranger Child – Rachel Abbott

I am almost finished with this (a book club choice!) and I am loving it! Review will follow next week.


Career of Evil by Robert GalbraithThe Last Days of Summer by Vanessa RonanThe Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore
[Recently Purchased/ Received]

Career of Evil – Robert Galbraith

A Home For Broken Hearts – Rowan Coleman

The Poison Artist – Jonathan Moore

Beautiful Losers – Eve Seymour

The Last Days of Summer – Vanessa Ronan


Somolon Creed by Simon ToyneSlow Burning Lies by Ray KingfisherThe Age of Reinvention by Karine Tuil[Recent Additions to my Goodreads ‘To-Read’ list]

Solomon Creed – Simon Toyne

Brooklyn – Colm Tóibín

Slow Burning Lies – Ray Kingfisher

The Marble Collector – Cecelia Ahern

Brooklyn by Colm ToibinNowhere Girl by Ruth DugdallThe Marbale Collector by Cecelia AhernThe Age of Reinvention: A Novel – Karine Tuil

Nowhere Girl – Ruth Dugdall

Slade House – David Mitchell

Visiting Lilly – Toni Allen

What are you currently reading, and what’s on your ‘To-Read’ list?

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses [review]

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale[Synopsis]

Single mother Abbey Fuller loves her family more than anything, and doesn’t regret for a moment having had to put her dreams of being an interior designer on hold. But with her son, Max, growing up, when a friend recommends her for a small design job she jumps at the chance. How hard can it be?

Nick Sinclair needs his house decorated in time for his family’s festive visit – and money is no object. What he doesn’t need is to be distracted from his multi-million dollar business – even if it is Christmas.

When Abbey pulls up to the huge Sinclair mansion, she has a feeling she might be out of her depth. And when she meets the gorgeous, brooding Nicholas Sinclair, she knows that she’s in real trouble…

With the snow falling all around, can Abbey take the chance to make her dreams of being a designer come true? And can she help Nick to finally enjoy the magic of Christmas?

[My Review]

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale is a fun and light-hearted read. The story is entertaining and moves along at a good pace, with characters that are all likeable and fun to read about (though some were a little unbelievable at times).

Jenny Hale has certainly created the ‘perfect’ male love interest for many people in Nick, who seems almost too good to be true, and Abbey is a sweet and quite likeable main character – as is cute little Max!

One small crticism is that the novel is certainly quite predictable and cheesy at times. Some scenes made me cringe a little and seemed like they were following the ‘chick-lit-rom-com’ formula a little too closely (I won’t give any of the plot away though), but I guess with this genre you have to expect some cliches!

Nevertheless I did really enjoy reading this novel. It’s written well and really conjures up the images of decorations, ice skating and parties that are so lovely to think about at this time of year. Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses has a nice mix of romance and light humour, and is ideal to get you in the Christmas spirit now that it’s (only?!) 2 months away!

[My Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher who provided a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt

The Drowning Lesson [review]

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt[Synopsis]

Emma and Adam are doctors at the top of their fields and so when they are offered the chance to take their three children to Africa for a year for a research placement it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. It’s going to be an experience they’ll never forget.

But for all the wrong reasons.

When Emma arrives home one night to the sickening sight of an empty cot, their family’s dream adventure turns into their worst nightmare.

Thousands of miles from home and from anyone who can help, they must discover the truth. Is this a random abduction, a tragic accident or something far more sinister?

The Drowning Lesson

[My Review]

The Drowning Lesson by Jane Shemilt is a completely absorbing, emotional story of loss and suffering intertwined with mystery and suspense. I read and loved Daughter (my review here) by the same author so was excited to give this a go!

I was hanging on to every word, trying to work out what had happened to baby Sam, despite feeling that Emma wasn’t a particularly likeable character- she seemed quite jealous and competitive and far too absorbed in her work to notice what was going on with her children, though I also felt for her because her husband was also so engrossed in his own career, if not more- and why should it always be expected that mothers should give up their own lives and careers once they have children?

However as the novel went on I warmed to Emma and really felt that I could sympathise with what she was going through, despite having no children myself. Towards the end of the novel the story got fairly heart-breaking really, and I really felt for the family. Jane Shemilt writes so wonderfully and has managed to create a convincing and, at times, threatening world in Botswana, and I really felt pulled into the African landscape as I read on.

Although some readers may feel that the novel was a little slow at times, I personally really enjoyed it and the way it slowly built suspense until the fairly action-packed end.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an advance copy of this novel in return for an honest review!

The Drowning Lesson is out in the UK on September 24th 2015!

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off [review]

Bella's Christmas Bake Off[Synopsis]

Bella Bradley is the queen of television baking – a national treasure. Her Christmas specials have been topping the ratings for years and her marriage to Peter ‘Silver Fox’ Bradley is the stuff of Hello magazine specials.
But this year things are going to be different.

For Amy Lane, Bella’s best friend from school, life hasn’t held quite the same sparkle. And when Amy’s husband walks out three weeks from Christmas, it seems their lives are further apart than ever.

Amy has watched Bella’s rise to fame fondly, despite the fact Bella was always a terrible cook. But when she realises that Bella’s latest Christmas book is made up entirely of Amy’s mother’s recipes, the gloves are off…

After winning a competition to appear on Bella’s TV show, Amy is going to make sure that for Bella and her viewers, this will definitely be a Christmas to remember…

Bella's Christmas Bake Off

[My Review]

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off by Sue Watson is an easy, fluffy read that’s fun and entertaining. The characters were quite amusing and there was some humorous moments that made me laugh throughout, with main character Amy trying to deal with her marriage break up (which actually isn’t a funny topic, but Sue Watson did manage to keep it light hearted overall) and with Bella’s diva-like personality. I did wonder why Amy wanted to remain friends with spoilt Bella to be honest, apart from feeling a little sorry for her, but the story is entertaining so I didn’t focus too much on that.

I did like that this novel included scenes set in and about the homeless shelter, and it’s nice to see something like this mentioned in a Christmassy novel, which might encourage people to think about how this time of year sadly isn’t happy for everyone. Some aspects of the storyline I saw coming from a mile off but I enjoyed reading about the characters anyway.

I didn’t feel that this novel was amazing but it’s certainly worth a read if you fancy something quick, light-hearted and Christmassy.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

Bella’s Christmas Bake Off will be published on 22nd October 2015.

The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton by Catherine Alliott

The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton [review]

The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton by Catherine Alliott[Synopsis]

Evie Hamilton has a secret. One she doesn’t even know about. Yet . . . She’s blissfully unaware that her charmed and happy life is about to be turned upside down. And it all begins one sunny, Oxford morning when a letter – a ticking time bomb – lands on Evie’s immaculate doormat. Something she never anticipated threatens to sabotage all that she holds dear. It’s time for her to reappraise everything in her carefully arranged universe.

Is Evie strong enough to fight for what she loves? What will be left and what will change forever? And can her world really be as fragile as her best china?

[My Review]

The Longest Holiday

The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton was so much fun! I laughed out loud at Evie’s antics countless times; often ‘chick-lit’ which is supposed to be humorous is actually a bit try hard, or not quite to my humour, but I found this novel really entertaining.

There were some pretty emotional parts to The Secret Life of Evie Hamilton, and the way Alliott blends humour and poignance so seamlessly is a testament to her writing and skill. The characters are just brilliant, some more likeable than others, and I got so into the story that I really wanted to give some characters a good slap at times!

Having read Wish You Were Here recently I wanted to read more by her, and this certainly didn’t disappoint! She’s up there now with some of my other favourite authors in this genre (Marian Keyes and JoJo Moyes are another few of my favourites) and I’ll be reading more as and when I can!

[Rating: 4/5]

Are you a Catherine Alliott fan? Have you read many of her novels?

Only We Know [review]

Only We Know by Karen Perry[Synopsis]

In 1982, an idyllic summer is shattered when three children play a game that ends in tragedy.
Now, thirty years later, Nick, Luke and Katie remain bound together by the truth of what happened that day.

But some secrets won’t stay buried.

And when Luke vanishes and the threatening messages begin, it becomes clear someone else knows the truth – and is intent on justice, no matter what the cost…

Only We Know

[My Review]

I really loved this book; it was atmopsheric, intriguing and emotional all at the same time. It feels like I’ve read so many books centering around people that have a dark past, particularly those who have done ‘bad things’ as kids, and this is yet another- but it joins the ranks as one of the most enjoyable and gripping!

The writing by Karen Perry (a pseudonym for writing duo Paul Perry and Karen Gillece) is fantastic; they manage to ensure that the plot flows really well and this kept me reading on. I read it in two sittings and at no point lost interest in the story being told. I really wanted to find out exactly what happened all those years ago, and the writing slowly reveals this bit by bit.

Only We Know not only focuses on the past but the present too, and how those children (now adults, of course) are dealing with what happened. This is really interesting and the characters are all convincing, even though you can’t always feel sure about who knows the ‘whole truth’ and who doesn’t. It makes you think about how a tragedy like this would affect yourself and your own family, as well as family loyalty and betrayal.

I won’t give too much away about this novel but I’d highly recommend it. It’s really enjoyable to read and I love a bit of mystery- and this has plenty!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Have you read ‘Only We Know’ or any other novels by Karen Perry? What did you think?

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull [September Book Club]

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard BachI’m sorry that this book club post is so late… I guess I just was so underwhelmed by the book so I wasn’t hugely motivated to write the post. I tend to pick books to review on here that I think I’ll enjoy, so usually my posts are positive just because of that reason. I don’t really pick or accept books for review which don’t appeal to me in some way, so usually, even if it wasn’t amazing, I’m usually looking forward to writing my review.

In this into I’ve kind of given away my general feeling on this book already, but oh well!

[Synopsis]

This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no ordinary bird. He believes it is every gull’s right to fly, to reach the ultimate freedom of challenge and discovery, finding his greatest reward in teaching younger gulls the joy of flight and the power of dreams.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

[Our Book Club Review]

Well. To me I felt this was one of the most overly-pretentious, self-important, boring book I have ever read. I know people say it’s full of ‘life-lessons’ but it was so preachy and dull and just didn’t draw me in at all.

I had no problems with the overall premise; that Jonathan was a seagull who doesn’t follow the pack and instead flies free in his quest for perfection, even when all his peers sneer at him… that’s all great. I just found it really boring to read. The symbolism of the story wasn’t at all subtle and I didn’t really enjoy it. My feelings were echoed by everyone in the group, which I was surprised about as there are so many positive reviews and people who worship this book, so I thought at least one of the 6 of us who were there would have felt it ‘spoke’ to them too. But I’m afraid there wasn’t. The pictures also seemed a little pointless, though at least meant there were a few pages without any text on.

It’s great to be optimistic and want to better yourself, of course, but we all felt it could have been conveyed in a more interesting way. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people who feel we’ve missed the point of this book, and to be honest we probably have. It’s probably the kind of book where, if you read it at a certain significant point in your life, then it really speaks to you, but sadly within our book club it didn’t. This reminded me of our experience with another reading group choice- The Alchemist– where the hype around a book just didn’t transfer to our enjoyment of the book.

Someone from our group did, however, give one positive- at least it only took 45 mins to read.

[Rating: 2/5]


 

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott[Next Month’s Choice: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott]

One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma’s life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they’re right.

Stranger Child (DCI Tom Douglas, #4)

This looks like my kind of book! It wasn’t my choice this month but I have heard a lot about this book and, although it’s number 4 in the DCI Tim Douglas series, hopefully we won’t need to have read the others to enjoy it!

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think?